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1: Teaching Tips


Introduction: One of the competency aims after Vg1 is “to take initiatives to start, finish and keep a conversation going.” Although this seems like a given in language instruction, the art of conversing itself is not all that easy for all of us – teachers and students alike.

Pinter’s dramatic sketch portrays two women (Mrs. A and Mrs. B) who have a conversation about a third woman “she” and how often and when this “she” a friend/acquaintance who has moved away “comes in” to the butcher.

On the surface the conversation is short and shallow; typical small talk. This is also the beauty of the conversation. The way the dialogue is read can change everything. Is one woman bragging about the friendship she still has with “she”, are they arguing, or are they just passing time? If the students change the characters (ages, sex, social status, setting etc) how does the conversation change? Using the creative stunts after the text will allow you to explore some of these possibilities.

Pinter himself is most famous for “The Birthday Party”. He was a great influence on 20th century drama. His own style was so unique, the word Pinteresque was listed in the Oxford dictionary. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005, the Swedish Academy said that Pinter "… in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression‘s closed rooms".

With your class, explore the “precipice under everyday prattle” both in the text and their own lives.

Read the text

Have students read through the sketch in pairs.
Get their first impressions: Who is talking and about what?


Listen to the text

Listen to the text on sound file or live performance. Have the students take special notice of several aspects as they listen: tone, voice quality, attitude of the speaker, the pauses, and what is not said. If you cannot listen to the text you should prepare it beforehand – with another teacher, a teacher and a student, or 2 students.

Discussion 1

In your discussion you should discuss what makes this “sketch” different – or Pinteresque:
• The things that are not said
• Who left? Why did she leave? What kind of relationship did these people have? Do they miss each other?
• The pauses - Why are there so many pauses? What are they waiting for? Are the pauses used as a weapon, as a break, because there is little to say?
• The seeming banality or trivialness of the conversation
• This is an everyday conversation, like ones we have everyday. Why do they talk? Is this an attempt to find a new friend, brag, talk about a problem?
• What could the conversation really be about? Loss, love, friendship, longing, belonging, jealousy?
If the students think this is a silly conversation – that is great. Have them think about one of their own “scintillating” conversations:
ex. – Skjer’a? –
Skjer’a?
Så du …
ja, det var ØØØØØ
ja, helt sykt …

In English: - What’s up?
Hey, what’s up?
Did you see …
Ohh, yeah, cool
yeah like cool …

Discussion 2
- Types of Conversations -

If you want to follow up this topic with something similar you can explore one of the following:
1. Small Talk
o In English-speaking countries it is important to be able to make small talk. Yet this is quite difficult for many people. If you google small talk, you will get many thousand hits and many of these are self-improvement sites.
o There is a power point presentation about small talk available to you here. Because of copyright laws the illustrations we once used cannot be available to you. Instead, you will find a suggested illustration idea/film clip on the slide, but you must google it yourself.
2. What is the “good conversation”?
o This is something that the Norwegian Royal family certainly has talked about quite a bit, at least how much they appreciate “den gode samtalen”. Ask your students to define what this is and whom they have these kinds of conversations with. The “good conversation” would also make a good writing assignment.

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